Oh, fill in the blank? Okay. Writing a solid query letter is frustrating. It makes me sweat bullets. I think it’s a task akin to a dog chasing its tail until it gets dizzy and throws up. Writing a query letter is about as much fun as the extreme waxing I subjected myself to before a spring break trip to Mexico a couple of years ago. Which is all to say that writing a query that is snappy, concise, and eloquent is painful.
Because I save all of my queries and responses in a file for my own reference, I’ve been able to go back and see what’s worked and what hasn’t. Some attempts were so horrid that I’ve read slushpilehell.tumblr.com through the web of my fingers in fear that I’d see my own words being mocked and shredded for giggles. (If you’re a fan of snark and haven’t read slushpilehell, please do.) Others weren’t as cringe-worthy, and some even netted me a request for a partial or a full. One of my more solid queries was one I wrote for a book where the protagonist was a 15-year-old boy. I had this crazy idea that maybe it would sound more authoritative if the author wasn’t immediately identified as a woman in her 30s (AKA, someone who has never been a teenage boy), so I wrote a short, clipped, funny query that I signed off with my first and middle initials followed by my last name. Within a few days I had a request for a full manuscript from an agent. Ultimately she passed on it, but it was my first experience writing a query that truly felt spot-on. (I probably ruined the initial effect by following up her request for a partial with an email that spewed verbal butterflies at her, like: “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited! Thank you!” instead of a cooler, more manly, “Great. Here’s my manuscript. Thanks for the interest; looking forward to hearing back from you.” But…one can only cover up one’s true identity for so long.)
Last weekend I toiled and fretted over a query for our new manuscript, and I tried in vain to whittle it down to something that didn’t immediately elicit an eye-roll and a “TL;DR” from the recipient. But as I skim it again today, I’m feeling a little deflated. What I want it to say to a prospective agent is that we’re funny and creative and hard-working, that we dream big, laugh hard, and have caring spirits. We want to write about girls who matter; we want to create characters with strong ties to their native cultures who have interesting adventures when they move to America. I want it to be clear that we’re open to suggestion and criticism and editing, and that it’s not just this one book that they’d be representing, but these two wild, dreaming girls.
But that’s really, really hard to do without sounding hokey. So I’m back to square one, wondering if I’ve just mistakenly sent our dream agent a sub-par query that will hit the slush pile at warp speed, but secretly hoping that she’ll see through the formality of the greeting, and the slightly bloated book description, to realize that on the other side of that query letter are two chicks who have stories in their souls.